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Overview of fire safety in the workplace

Whatever type of business you have, or how many people you employ, fire safety must be a main concern.

Achieving fire safety in your place of work largely comes down to common sense and although the business owner is usually the person responsible, there should be a team approach with all staff knowing how they can help prevent fire.

It is crucial that information about fire safety and about actions to take in the event of a fire are always easily accessible to everyone at your place of work.

By making sure you have the correct strategies in place, you can easily minimize the risk of a fire emergency.

Main causes of fire in the workplace

In a low-risk office environment, these are the most common causes of fire:

Electrical. In an office, the most common causes of fire are electrical faults such as faulty equipment, overloaded sockets, damaged wires. These account for approximately 25% of fires in non-domestic buildings.

Misuse of equipment.  Heaters positioned close to flammable items, drinks spilt on electrical equipment.

Storage and disposable of flammable or combustible materials.  Storage of flammable liquids and unemptied bins containing combustible materials are a combustion hazard.

Smoking. Although smoking may be banned inside, carelessly discarded cigarettes still start fires. around one-third of deaths in non-domestic buildings are attributed to smoker’s materials.

Cooking appliances. Any food that has splattered or dripped in the microwave can continue to cook, causing sparks inside your microwave. Make sure you regularly clean and maintain your electrical appliance.

What is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers general fire safety in England and in Wales. It requires reasonable steps to be taken to reduce the risk of fire in the workplace and to make sure there is planning in place should an emergency situation occur.

In Scotland, Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, supported by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 applies.

Who’s responsible for fire safety in your workplace?

The employer

As an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure the workplace is a safe environment for your staff and for visitors. You have a legal duty firstly to guard against a fire occurring and secondly to ensure plans are in place in the event of a fire.


Everyone in the workplace has a duty to familiarise themselves with fire safety measures. For instance, action to take in the case of a fire, fire fighting equipment, and fire exits.  Competent Fire Safety Training will ensure this is the case.

Do the regulations apply to all places of work?

Yes, almost all premises where people work are covered by the Order. This includes offices, shops, care homes and hospitals, schools, sports centres, clubs, hotels, warehouses, factories, pubs and restaurants.

What are the fire safety requirements in the Fire Order?

The responsible person must undertake the following themselves or appoint a ‘competent person’ to do them:

  • To carry out a fire risk assessment (or use an outside agency) and make sure it is reviewed regularly.
  • To inform staff of any risks noted.
  • Put in place fire safety measures to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Keep fire safety measures current and maintained.
  • Take further measures if inflammable or explosive materials are stored.
  • Have emergency planning in place.
  • Review and record your planning of emergency procedures.
  • Consider those who may be more at risk and have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan where appropriate.
  • Provide staff with the necessary information and training.

Find out more about UK Fire Safety legislation here.

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